What Planners Can Learn About Incorporating Local Flavor from a New Louisville Icon

When The Omni Louisville Hotel threw a party the first week of March to celebrate the opening of the $315 million, 612-room lifestyle hotel downtown, Smart Meetings was there to check out the meeting space potential. What we discovered was a master lesson in celebrating what makes a community unique through grand gestures and small touches. Here are a few lessons from behind the yellow ribbon.

Celebrate Past, Present and Prescient

Visitors entering the lobby are surrounded by snippets of the city’s industrial past, urban present and bright prospects for the future. Steel, leather, copper and oak barrels pop up in unexpected places, along with equestrian details. The hotel and the city’s roots dig deep into the region’s history as a purveyor of fine whiskey. To this day, nine out of ten copper stills made in the world are made in Louisville, so the accoutrements of that industry can be glimpsed throughout the property. Visitors can even take home local spirits with a visit to Lewis + Louis, a bourbon retail store in the hotel.

The hotel offers approximately 70,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 33 natural-light-filled meeting rooms, with names such as Charred, Barley and Wheat. Fun fact: the disco ball in the Mokara Spa and featured in art throughout the property is a nod to the fact that Louisville is one of the largest distributors of mirrored spheres in the United States.

Eat, Drink and Be Local

Dining is an opportunity to inject the essence of a place into the culinary experience, and Omni Louisville has embraced that idea wholeheartedly. The Old Fashioned cocktail was invented in Louisville, and at both the Library Bar and Pin & Proof—the on-site speakeasy and bowling alley—the smooth-drinking concoction is reinterpreted for every taste. At Bob’s Steak & Chop House, the region’s agricultural roots shine with the best of root and range.

Or, elevate the meeting and dining experience at The Water Company, a rooftop pool deck and bar where city views are the signature dish for groups as large as 100 people. Still hungry? El Toro food truck brings the street vibe to your hospitality experience.

A really unique addition is Falls City Market, an urban food market, offering fresh grocery staples and hawker food stations that will appeal to locals and travelers.

Be a Good Neighbor

Omni Louisville’s opening coincides with a $207 million renovation and expansion of Kentucky International Convention Center next door, which will reopen with 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in five months. All that gathering potential is bolstered by seven urban bourbon distilleries, a bounty of restaurants and retail on Whiskey Row, 10 distinct attractions on Museum Row—including Muhammad Ali Center and Louisville Slugger Museum—and the entertainment corridor of Fourth Street Live!

“The Omni offers another high-end brand to leisure travelers and helps Louisville attract larger conventions,” explained a representative from Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau in a written statement.

One of the neighbors leading the welcoming committee at the opening ceremony was Mayor Greg Fischer. “Omni team carefully curated every item in this building to reflect our city’s culture and personality,” he said. Praise doesn’t get much more authentic than that.